Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Everything you ever wanted to know about hemp, but were afraid to ask...
(from annotation for 4 August 1662)
When we say hemp, we think of ropes first - and indeed
Dave Bell on Sat 6 Aug 2005, 7:04 am | LinkAs an ex-farmer, I can confirm that industrial hemp is actively been grown in Europe. There
"Hemp was amongst the most important and costly naval supplies. The best dressing was with Stockholm tar....The principal varieties were K
"The British were utterly dependent on hemp to maintain their sea power and to preserve themselves from the French and Spanish. A early as 1533, King Henry VIII required all farmers to cultivate one-quarter acre of hemp or flax for every sixty acres of land under tillage. Queen Elizabeth repeated the order in 1563, but it was repealed in 1593. Farmers were reluctant to grow the crop because arable soil is at a premium in England, and hemp and flax were not thought to be profitable even with the incentive of bounties granted by the Crown. John Houghton commented on the situation it in 1682:
"How all this will please those whose land is not fit for it, or who think they can put it to a better use, I won't say; but most men love to do what they will with their own, and as yet it is not done." (86)
British farmers were not enthusiastic about hemp because they did not know much about the subtleties of its cultivation, and it did not pay well. They could not be confident of success with the crop, and most could not afford to experiment. Nor did they appreciate the labor and foul smell of retting hemp, as was expressed in Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie (1580):
"Now pluck up they hempe, and go beat out the seed, And afterward water it as ye see need. But not in the river where cattle should drink, For poisoning them and the people with stinke." (87)
In its Answer to the Georgical Enquiries (1664) concerning the cultivation of hemp, the Royal Society did not have much more information to offer:
"We sow much hemp upon land made very fat, beginning to plow it about Candlemas and twice afterwards, choosing the largest, sound, and brightest seed." (88)
A History of Hemp by Robert A. Nelson the original manuscript of The Great Book of Hemp (1996, Inner Traditions International; edited by "Rowan Robinson"). http://www.rexresearch.com/hhist/hhist1~1.htm
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